A new recovery community is being built just outside Anna, and aims to help Collin County residents live a sober life.
The community is called Tiny House Big Recovery and is run by the McKinney non-profit organization Grace for Change. Shannon White is the executive director of the organization and the creator of the community.
“Tiny House Big Recovery came out of my experience in the jail with women who wanted to change their lives but had no place to go but back to their houses where they got arrested for the drugs to begin with,” White said.
Every Tuesday, White teaches a class to female inmates at the Collin County Jail. There she meets women suffering from substance abuse problems who have found themselves behind bars for crimes like robbery, child abuse, theft, and driving while intoxicated.
White said recovery for those women begins in jail through her class, but has to extend far beyond their release date in order for them to make a lasting change. The biggest obstacle a user faces coming out of jail, White said, is finding a place to live that is free of drugs.
“The women I’m meeting in jail have literally the bag that they went to jail with,” she said. “And so they can go back to the trap houses or the drug houses where they were, or boyfriends, or family members who are still using. Which it’s very difficult to keep them sober and on track in those kinds of environments.”
If the women have a felony charge on their record, they probably won’t be allowed back to their apartment, she explained. Staying with someone is not often an option for these women because their friends and family are frequently fed up with their substance abuse, or are users themselves.
Currently Grace for Change puts women who cannot find housing into hotels or directs them to the Samaritan Inn, a homeless shelter in McKinney. The latter is not always an option, White said, because the Samaritan Inn does not take people who have robbery or aggravated charges. Many women also have a child protective services case against them, and that would exclude them from the homeless shelter, too.
White explained putting these women up in a hotel is expensive, and while the tiny house community will be more expensive for the organization in the short term, long-term it should be cheaper.
A land owner has donated 15 acres to the community located between Anna and Melissa out in the county. The nonprofit is currently closing on the title and hopes to have the land during the course of the week.
In the meantime, a trailer is being built that will house eight people in a dorm style of living. White hopes to have two dorm-style trailers located on the land that will house four people each. At the beginning when there is one trailer it will house eight people, then when the other trailer opens up they will split the number between the two trailers. There will also be four two-bedroom tiny houses. Those will have two people living in them each. Eight one-bedroom tiny houses will house an additional eight people.
In all, the community will house 48 people.
White’s said the goal of the community is to give women who have undergone the recovery class in jail a clean place to live once they get out.
The community will only consist of women from Collin County who have a substance abuse problem and have recently come from prison or jail. It will be a place where they can get back on their feet, find a job, and continue with their probation in a clean environment.
White said no sex offenders will be allowed in the community, and women living there will have to abide by strict rules.
“The criteria for them to live in our tiny houses is going to be pretty strict,” White said. “They have to be willing to go through a full intensive supportive out-patient treatment for an entire year with us. Towards the end it means coming once a week, but they have to commit to doing that.”
One person who has gone through the treatment already is Kimberlie Chapman. She was released from the Collin County Jail in October of last year and has since gotten her life back on track.
“When I walked out of Collin County I had my ID and my Bible,” Chapman said. “I had met Miss Shannon in there from MRT (Moral Reconation Therapy). I walked here from the jail and my life has been amazing. They helped me get into the Samaritan Inn, I continue to do the IOP (intensive out-patient treatment) and the treatment here. They help me get teeth, they helped me get a job at El Chico, and they gave me all these tools to help me better my life. Now, I have a car.”
It took Chapman many years to get to this point — recovery didn’t come overnight. She started using drugs at 11 years old. Right before she went to jail on a theft charge she was regularly using methamphetamine.
“I got picked up on a shoplifting thing, as we often do, so I went in for that,” she said. “So, while I was in there and the in-laws were filing for custody, they found drugs in my room and called out Plano Police Department, which led to a felony charge of possession of drugs.”
She lost custody of her 9-year-old daughter, and had to spend 90 days behind bars. There is where she met White and got into the recovery program. Today, Chapman said she’s happy where she is.
She’s been clean for 20 months now and has been granted visitation with her daughter. Soon she hopes to be given joint custody.
Chapman said she understands why people in the community may be hesitant about convicted felons and recovering drug users coming into their areas, but wants to tell people users are already there.
“People that aren’t aware of addiction and drugs, they don’t know — they’re just oblivious to that and then they see these big things about this recovery coming in, and they think, ‘This is the drugs coming in.’ They don’t realize that it’s already there,” she said.
When Chapman was using she lived in a big house in Plano with her in-laws in a nice upscale area, but said that didn’t stop the drug dealers from coming to the house. She was able to recover when she distanced herself from that lifestyle and went into treatment.
“Grace to Change is my home and this will always be my family,” Chapman said.
White said she has contacted local law enforcement in the area and told them about the community. A caretaker will also be on site at the community supervising the residents.
“The reality is these people are around, they’re in our backyards already,” White said. “The difference is they are just not being treated. Our goal is to help these people who are already here. These are Collin County residents.”